Friday, October 26, 2007

Is Creation of the Earth Sufficient Ties for Personal Jurisdiction?

'God' Apparently Responds to Lawsuit. Key quotes:

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha sued God last week, seeking a permanent injunction against the Almighty for making terroristic threats, inspiring fear and causing "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants."

Chambers, a self-proclaimed agnostic who often criticizes Christians, said his filing was triggered by a federal lawsuit he considers frivolous. He said he's trying to makes the point that anybody can sue anybody.

Not so, says "God." His response argues that the defendant is immune from some earthly laws and the court lacks jurisdiction.

It adds that blaming God for human oppression and suffering misses an important point.

"I created man and woman with free will and next to the promise of immortal life, free will is my greatest gift to you," according to the response, as read by Friend.

There was no contact information on the filing, although St. Michael the Archangel is listed as a witness, Friend said. . . . .

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Meet Molly

An adorable labramutt. What can I say? She licked me, so I had to take her home. Yep, I'm leaving that wide open.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wait . . .



I'm not dead yet. It just took me all day to get a single email. I've no time to go elsewhere to connect - too many hearings - and I haven't got the 'net hooked up yet. Meanwhile, check out the new Iowa City Theatre Blog, and the rest of the sidebar.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tuesday Quiz

NerdTests.com says I'm a Cool History / Lit Geek.  What are you?  Click here!


via our fearless director, Matt.

Yep, director. If you want to see Nelle and I in another show, come see That Day In September this weekend or next:




PS - I'm not being lazy, nor am I on hiatus. I've just not got an internet connection closer than 20 minutes from my home/office, so it's not exactly handy right now.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Quote of the Day - Iowa City Edition

From DC2Iowa, discussing the proposed naming of the college of medicine at the University of Iowa after Wellmark in exchange for a donation:
Once a university gets in bed with corporate America is oral sex "adultery" -- hell, is it even "sex"? Are we still virgins if we don't "go all the way"?

We're already in bed, folks. Now we're just drawing lines and haggling over price.

Vivian: I would have stayed for two thousand.
Edward: I would have paid four.

ROFL

This is the most hilarious thing I've read today. A brilliant parody of the anti-Harry Potter hysteria, she even got it posted on a fundamentalist site. An excerpt:
Lucius Malfoy (meaning of bad/wrong faith, again this is misleading!), a respectably dressed family man with the pale hair and ethereal looks of an Angel, representing the Angel Gabriel of the Annunciation (Luke 1:31, but with the name of the fallen one in order to confuse Christian readers) gives the girl of a humble home, Ginny Weasley, the diary of Tom Riddle.

It is not hard to realize this diary, containing the life history of our Lord Tom the Son, represents both the message that she is to become the Divine vessel, and the Christian Bible, the very base of our faith. The Angel Malfoy, with modesty that befits his kind, does not touch the revered and frightened girl but puts the diary in the girl's cauldron, representive of her womb.

The innocent Ginny confides in the diary, asking it questions, and the diary advises her, guides her, like the Holy Scripture. About the diary she says, I'm so glad I've got this diary to confide in ... It's like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket (p. 335). Isn't this the way we wish our children would think about the Holy Scripture? Ginny continues to ask Tom for guidance, until she, under the malevolent and seductive influence of the anti-Christ figure, Harry Potter, bearing the mark of the beast on his front, rejects it and it falls into his hands.
The author, and the discussion about the hoax.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Nelle (whose birthday it was last Saturday, by the way) is coming down to help us move back to Iowa. I hope this finally appeases the moving gods and I don't have to relocate again for quite a while. I'm not sure if I need prayers or an exorcism.

My worst nightmare: we'll get halfway through and realize (cue Brody/Jaws impression) "We're going to need a bigger truck."

Things I've Found on the Internet Lately

How Not To Be Pranked:
When Electronic Frontier Foundation privacy lawyer Kevin Bankston announced that he was locking his office door to "prevent pranks" by this summer's crop of interns, the interns took it as a personal challenge. They figured out how to get into his office (they had the universal key!), took some pix, and then made a snappy little LOLCats animation commemorating the event.
One of the photos:

Vaporub solves a Hampshire gang problem.

In the heart of Africa, native art, untouched by the commercialism . . . d'oh!

The ultimate cliffs notes - famous poems rewritten as limmericks.

The natural successor to the Segway - motorized pink bunny slippers.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Random Musings about Billing

In this morning's reading: Trusted Advisor points out this article from the Wall Street Journal law blog:
Study Suggests Significant Billing Abuse:William G. Ross, a professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law…polled 5,000 attorneys from various walks of life throughout the country, and 251 responded…


Two-thirds said they had “specific knowledge” of bill padding ─ a finding virtually identical to one reached by Ross in a 1995 billing survey. Also, 54.6% of the respondents (as compared with 40.3% in 1995) admitted that they had sometimes performed unnecessary tasks just to bump up their billable output.
Ross says that bill padding involves invoicing a client for work never performed — or exaggerating the amount of time spent on a matter—- while unnecessary work is that which “exceeds any marginal utility” to a client.
\
Oh the one hand, I saw this often in the business world. My favorite: charging .2 (18 minutes) minimum for everything - including reading a letter of two lines, which probably took all of ten seconds real time. I guess they're in remedial classes.

Myself, I find the opposite problem. Case in point: last week I was trying to fashion a comprehensive letter to a client who basically has one last chance to get her kid back or they're going to file a termination. A how-to-parent guide intended to spark her into doing what I know she's quite capable of, if she'd only, to quote Nike, just do it. So I write one draft. I read it over - it's too long, and too preachy. It will likely inspire her to tell me to go to hell more than anything else. So I revise it, taking out the preachiness and ramping up the cheerleading factor, and read it again. More positive, but still too convoluted. And have I taken out too much of the bite - will she not get the fact that if she fails, she may loose all rights to her child forever? Again with the rewrite. By this time, three hours has gone by. Three hours to write a letter? The state public defender's office, the office which pays out when you take court-appointed juvenile cases, won't even bother laughing as the slash the time down to half an hour or so.

Finally, I get a draft that's somewhat close. It's still wrong, but I can't take any more time on it, I've got about twenty other things I need to get done before I can call it a day. So, now the big question: what time to bill? I decide to put an hour, and denote in the explanation that it was an extremely comprehensive letter outlining the case to date and plan of action. We'll see if I get paid.

Come to think of it, could some of the bill-padding cited be an attempt to make up for this kind of thing? Though I haven't thought of it that way, I guess I could see where an attorney might feel justified in trying to recoup their time by adding a few .1's onto other tasks.

Nah, I'm probably being too sympathetic.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Okay, A Full-Blown Legal Post

The article from the Register I blogged on yesterday is bothering me enough I have to do a full-blown legal post on it. I'm combining this post with yesterday's, so you don't have to keep going back and forth between the two to understand what I'm talking about. From yesterday:
So on Sunday I'm perusing the Register's headlines and Irun across it's expose of long-term care insurance in Iowa:

Marge Bode is an Iowa farm wife who helped raise five children and made sure every one of them got at least one college degree.

She and her late husband bought long-term-care insurance to help pay the bills for nursing-home care in case either of them ever needed it.

Now 89, she has been diagnosed with dementia and narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the part of the brain that affects her memory. She can't prepare her own food, work a toaster, operate a microwave, towel herself off completely after a shower, do her own laundry or work a remote control.

So she moved to an assisted-living facility in Algona last October.

She occasionally wants to take a long bath in the tub, but that would require extra help from the staff. Each soak in the tub would cost an extra $10.

"She can't afford it," said daughter Jan Christensen.

That's in part because the family was already paying more than $2,300 a month for the assisted-living facility. From October to June, Bode's long-term-care insurer, Conseco Senior Health Insurance Co., repeatedly refused to help pay the bill for Bode's care. The insurance company contended Bode wasn't sufficiently infirm to meet the eligibility terms in her policy. The benefit is only $50 a day, or about $1,500 a month, but it would have helped pay the bills.

It might be considered that Bode's story has a happy ending. Last month, after The Des Moines Register made inquiries with Conseco about Bode's case and the family decided to file a lawsuit, Conseco paid part of the money owed.

After reading this, I glance down to see what grounds they've sued on, as a) I am a lawyer and b) I used to work for an insurance company, before I started doing my own thing, taking court-appointed cases in juvenile court to help out kids in crisis from low-income families. I find the grounds at the bottom of the page:
So, just like the letter suggested, the family sought legal counsel. Roxanne Conlin, a Des Moines attorney, took the case.

Conlin filed suit against Conseco in early June, accusing the company of everything from not returning the family's phone calls; to placing family members on hold for so long they finally hung up; to sending form letters instead of answering specific questions; to refusing to send correspondence to family members, even though Bode suffers from dementia.
. . .

Conlin's suit accuses Conseco of bad faith and fraud.

Absolutely correct, I thought to myself, if they've been as horrific as this article makes out they deserve a bad faith judgment. Let me explain: normally insurance law is contract law. You get what the terms of the contract say you get. If a company denies you coverage from a reasonable mistake or a general dispute on some of the facts (like if you claim your rear-ender accident caused you to become pregnant or something off the wall like that) the remedy if the company was wrong is usually limited to performance of the contract, and any reasonable expenses you incur in enforcing it. Also, because the contract is written up by the company and you have no choice but to either accept it as written or go elsewhere, every term in that contract is interpreted in your favor. So if part of a sentence could reasonaly be seen to provide coverage, even if it is a stretch and most people really wouldn't read it that way, the courts will give it to you. Bad faith, however, is a different issue. In those claims, the allegation is that the company knew coverage should have been given but didn't anyway. That means that you can sue for more than just the coverage you were promised, but also punitive damages to punish the company for it's wrongdoing. This generally results in multi-million dollar verdicts - the type of thing to strongly discourage companies for improper behavior. See, for example the State Farm case in which, at the close of the evidence, the jury awarded the Campbells $2.6 million in compensatory damages and $145 million in punitive damages. This for it's outrageous treatment of the Campbells when they had a serious accident with only a $25,000 policy. The United States Supreme Court steppid in on that case and indicated that this award was a bit much, even under the circumstances:
An application of the Gore guideposts to the facts of this case, especially in light of the substantial compensatory damages awarded (a portion of which contained a punitive element), likely would justify a punitive damages award at or near the amount of compensatory damages. The punitive award of $145 million, therefore, was neither reasonable nor proportionate to the wrong committed, and it was an irrational and arbitrary deprivation of the property of the defendant. The proper calculation of punitive damages under the principles we have discussed should be resolved, in the first instance, by the Utah courts.
So if my memory serves me correctly, the Campbells got $9 million in punitives plus the $2.5 million in compensatory, to come out with $11.5 million. Given the usual fees for plaintiff's attorneys, they'd probably take home a little over half that, and the lawyers would get the rest.

Yes, I know. But it isn't totally unfair - most plaintiff's attorneys on these cases have a contract with their clients in which the clients pay nothing up front, and the attorneys take 1/3 of any settlement, or about 40% if you have to go through trial and a verdict. Advantages to the injured plaintiff are that they don't have to have the money up front to sue (litigation is freaking expensive), and they get a lawyer who has a vested interest in maximizing the money they receive. Advantages to the lawyer are that while you take a risk in trusting that the case will be as good as the client is telling you, and you could get nothing, in the end you will generally get a lot more in fees than if you'd simply been paid hourly. Right now, I'm a little too low on savings to take anything like this on, but I'd love to do some in the future because the payout would be definitely worth it. The only thing you have to watch is that you don't get on a case where someone is trying to make a false claim, or thinks a sprained wrist and no bad faith should be worth billions of dollars. Refer those straight on to someone else, thanks.

That all said, imagine my puzzlement when I read this morning's article in the Register:
. . . Robert Zieser found Ray Johnson. Robert's wife, Mary, is in a "memory care" lockdown unit for Alzheimer's, but the couple's long-term-care insurance company won't pay the bills. Robert Zieser has tried everything to get the company to pay. Now Johnson is reviewing the case.

"He clearly thought he had purchased protection. He thought he was getting coverage for this exact situation," Johnson said.

Johnson wouldn't think twice about taking on Zieser's case and others like it if Iowa had what's called a "private right of action."

Iowa doesn't.

It's the only state in the country that doesn't allow individual consumers to hire private attorneys and sue under the Consumer Fraud Act. Iowa's attorney general can sue under the act, but not individual Iowans.

So if Iowans think they have been victimized by unfair or deceptive practices, they have to scrape together the money to hire an attorney. That attorney would have to prove what's called "common-law fraud," a difficult case to prove. Also, under common-law fraud, there is no provision to recoup attorney fees, a step almost all states allow.

"How are you going to pay an attorney?" asked Johnson. Iowa law needs to provide a mechanism so a client's attorney "can recover fees from who caused the client harm."

Um, excuse me???? Mr. Zeizer? How long have you been doing this type of work? If you can't figure out how to get paid, you might want to check with Ms. Conlin, she seems to be doing quite nicely.

Snarkiness aside, what he wants is to be able to do the consumer protection class-action type of suit in these cases. You know, the ones where you get something in the mail and it says (I paraphrase), "There's a settlement with x-and-such company and it has been determined that you are one of the people who have been totally screwed by them. If you sign up now, you will get a coupon for $5 off your next purchase. The total award is $2 million to the named plaintiff, a $600 million fund to give the rest of you schmucks your $5 coupons, and another $200 million to the lawyers in attorney's fees."

Yep, just what we need in Iowa.

You might read that last bit of snarkiness and ask yourself: Well, okay, I know those class actions can suck for the non-named plaintiff, but why not support a private cause of action under the Consumer Fraud Act anyway? I mean, with the reduced standard of proof, it will be a powerful tool for people who are wronged - they can simply add a count onto their petition alleging this as well as common-law fraud and have just that more leverage, right? Why even presume it will lead to class-actions in the first place? So I'll explain:

I don't disagree that defrauded consumers should have every ability to protect their rights. But if you look at the differences between common law fraud actions and the ability for people other than the Attorney General to sue under the Consumer Fraud Act, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Under Iowa law, the elements of fraud are: (1) representation, (2) falsity, (3) materiality, (4) scienter, (5) intent to deceive, (6) reliance, and (7) resulting injury and damage. First Security Bank and Trust v. King,(Iowa Ct. App. 2007).

So, if you think you’ve been harmed by a company you need to prove each of these things – they made some sort of representation to you, that it was false, that it was material to your purchase/agreement/contract (not lying about whether you look good in that skirt), that they intended to deceive you, you relied on the statement, and you had an injury or damages. One could argue the intent to deceive is a tad tricky to prove, but it’s inferable by the totality of the circumstances surrounding the deception.

By contrast, the Consumer Fraud Act is found under Iowa law in Section 714.16. The most apparently relevant section is a general prohibition against consumer fraud in 2.a.:
The act, use or employment by a person of an unfair practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation, or the concealment, suppression, or omission of a material fact with intent that others rely upon the concealment, suppression, or omission, in connection with the lease, sale, or advertisement of any merchandise or the solicitation of contributions for charitable purposes, whether or not a person has in fact been misled, deceived, or damaged, is an unlawful practice.

The necessary elements to prove a violation are, therefore: 1) Misrepresentation, concealment, deception, false promise, etc.; 2) Intent for others to rely; 3) In connection with the sale of merchandise.

Note the differences: First, you don’t have to prove an intent to deceive, just that you knew there was a false representation and that consumers were intended to rely upon it. A bit of semantics, but it is different. However, I don’t think that’s the crux of the argument. Note the one big thing that’s present in a common law fraud action but missing in the Consumer Fraud Act – an injury to an actual customer. Why would lawyers be interested in this? Take this Illinois example from Overlawyered:
The Chicago law firm of Edelman, Combs, Latturner & Goodwin, LLC has some wonderful news for you:
We are looking for electronically generated credit / debit card receipts which show either (a) the card expiration date or (b) any digits of the credit/ debit card number other than the last five.
In order to protect consumers against identity theft, an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act with a final effective date of December 4, 2006 requires merchants who accept credit/ debit cards and issue electronic receipts to program their machines to not show either the expiration date or more than the last 5 digits of the credit/ debit card number. The expiration date is important because a thief can use it together with the last four or five digits of the number to reconstruct the entire card number.
It is a violation to show either the expiration date or more than the last 5 digits of the card number. (We have seen some receipts where 4 or 5 other digits are shown, and that is a violation.) It is not necessary that any identity theft have actually occurred. Damages for a willful violation are $100 to $1,000 per receipt. The class representative may be able to obtain some additional compensation.
We have a number of pending cases alleging this violation and are interested in other merchants who are violating the law.
What do the lawyers get out of it? To quote the Register article:
So if Iowans think they have been victimized by unfair or deceptive practices, they have to scrape together the money to hire an attorney. That attorney would have to prove what's called "common-law fraud," a difficult case to prove. Also, under common-law fraud, there is no provision to recoup attorney fees, a step almost all states allow.
In other words, the attorneys can keep an eye out for potential violations of the law, troll for "clients" - it's immaterial whether or not you've been actually harmed by the violation - and then bring a big-*ss class action suit, the kind where the consumers each get a buck or two and the lawyers make millions. Think I'm exaggerating? Try this one, also from Overlawyered:
If you see Birmingham, Alabama lawyer Darrell L. Cartwright walking down the street, you might want to see if you can find some spare change in your pockets to give to him. He obviously must be hard up for money, because how else to explain the lawsuit he filed a couple of weeks ago?

On Monday, May 21, 2007, XM Satellite Radio suffered a satellite problem that caused partial or total service outages for parts of two days, lasting about 24 hours total. By late Tuesday, the problem was resolved, and XM announced that it would offer a two-day credit, worth about 87¢ -- yes, 87¢ -- to any customer who requested it. Problem solved. Everything right with the world, no?

No. You've forgotten about poor Mr. Cartwright. On Wednesday, May 23 -- the day after XM promised a refund to all its customers -- Mr. Cartwright found two neighbors of his who had subscribed to XM radio, slapped their names on a lawsuit, called it a class action suit, and demanded damages sustained by all its customers, in an unspecified amount of at least $5 million. (Via the Consumerist, which helpfully posted a copy of the complaint, which from the looks of things, took about 7 1/2 minutes of time to draft, typos and all: PDF.)

Now, you may wonder what benefit consumers get from this litigation, but to be fair, the lawsuit also demanded that the court issue an injunction to prohibit XM from suffering from technical problems in the future.

Or this one:
We mentioned the lawsuit over the absence of Nutrasweet in fountain versions of Diet Coke in 2004. In a typical "harm-less" class action, plaintiff Carol Oshana did not see any advertising for Nutrasweet in Diet Coke, knew that fountain Diet Coke tasted different than bottled Diet Coke, and continued to buy fountain Diet Coke after she learned it had saccharin, but demanded to be the representative of a class of all Diet Coke purchasers in Illinois on a "consumer fraud" claim. Via Howard Bashman, the Seventh Circuit affirmed federal jurisdiction and the district court's refusal to certify a class. Oshana did get a $650 nuisance settlement, which would buy 1000 liters of Diet Coke at my local grocer.

Spotting a trend here? Finally, to revisit my point on bad faith, consumers of long-term care insurance, like the Bode family, who have been wrongfully denied benefits have a powerful tool to work to collect not only their damages incurred as a result of that wrongful denial, but also to collect punitive damages - of which the attorneys get a 33 - 44% cut in exchange for taking the case for no fees up front. The elements of a first-party bad faith claim are reviewed in Walter v. Grinnell Mutual, (Iowa Ct. App. 2007):
[T]he elements to establish bad faith: (1) the insurer “had no reasonable basis for denying the plaintiff’s claim or for refusing to consent to settlement, and (2) the defendant knew or had reason to know that its denial or refusal was without reasonable basis.” The first element is objective; the second is subjective.

To recap, what bothers me about the Register article is that it implies that consumers who are wrongfully denied benefits by insurance companies must at present scrape together the money to hire a lawyer, and will have a difficult time finding one to represent them (according to Johnson) because it's so tough to prove fraud without the private right to sue under the Consumer Fraud Act. He'd love to take on these cases . . . but he just can't afford them. We should demand the right to sue, dammit! It's all for the public good, right? Besides, every other state allows this kind of suit. Iowans should demand their rights. Yep. Unless you know what he's actually talking about, it sounds very, very good. It's only when you dig a bit deeper that you figure out what's really going on. Consumers would gain a bit of an edge - the difference between proving an intent to deceive vs. proving a deception with the intent that you relied upon it. Lawyers, on the other hand, would gain a huge cash cow. Seems fair.

(Side note: I'll probably be excoriated by my fellow members of the bar for this one, which is one of the reasons I keep the blog anonymous!)


UPDATE
I've received a few emails from a member of the Bode family regarding their case, including a copy of the petition. I won't share it without permission, but I do want to reiterate that I feel for their situation and that I think their case is in good hands. Any hesitations I have about Mr. Johnson's piggy-backing his plea for a lawyer cash cow onto the back of this issue do NOT reflect on the Bode's case.

Template Down

Apparently I screwed something up with the template yesterday. Sorry about the outage.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Somewhat Legal Post

So on Sunday I'm perusing the Register's headlines and Irun across it's expose of long-term care insurance in Iowa:

Marge Bode is an Iowa farm wife who helped raise five children and made sure every one of them got at least one college degree.

She and her late husband bought long-term-care insurance to help pay the bills for nursing-home care in case either of them ever needed it.

Now 89, she has been diagnosed with dementia and narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the part of the brain that affects her memory. She can't prepare her own food, work a toaster, operate a microwave, towel herself off completely after a shower, do her own laundry or work a remote control.

So she moved to an assisted-living facility in Algona last October.

She occasionally wants to take a long bath in the tub, but that would require extra help from the staff. Each soak in the tub would cost an extra $10.

"She can't afford it," said daughter Jan Christensen.

That's in part because the family was already paying more than $2,300 a month for the assisted-living facility. From October to June, Bode's long-term-care insurer, Conseco Senior Health Insurance Co., repeatedly refused to help pay the bill for Bode's care. The insurance company contended Bode wasn't sufficiently infirm to meet the eligibility terms in her policy. The benefit is only $50 a day, or about $1,500 a month, but it would have helped pay the bills.

It might be considered that Bode's story has a happy ending. Last month, after The Des Moines Register made inquiries with Conseco about Bode's case and the family decided to file a lawsuit, Conseco paid part of the money owed.

I glance down to see what grounds they've sued on, as a) I am a lawyer and b) I used to work for an insurance company, before I started doing my own thing, taking court-appointed cases in juvenile court to help out kids in crisis from low-income families. I find the grounds at the bottom of the page:
So, just like the letter suggested, the family sought legal counsel. Roxanne Conlin, a Des Moines attorney, took the case.

Conlin filed suit against Conseco in early June, accusing the company of everything from not returning the family's phone calls; to placing family members on hold for so long they finally hung up; to sending form letters instead of answering specific questions; to refusing to send correspondence to family members, even though Bode suffers from dementia.
. . .

Conlin's suit accuses Conseco of bad faith and fraud.

Absolutely correct, I thought to myself, if they've been as horrific as this article makes out they deserve a bad faith judgment. Let me explain: normally insurance law is contract law. You get what the terms of the contract say you get. If a company denies you coverage from a reasonable mistake or a general dispute on some of the facts (like if you claim your rear-ender accident caused you to become pregnant or something off the wall like that) the remedy if the company was wrong is usually limited to performance of the contract, and any reasonable expenses you incur in enforcing it. Also, because the contract is written up by the company and you have no choice but to either accept it as written or go elsewhere, every term in that contract is interpreted in your favor. So if part of a sentence could reasonaly be seen to provide coverage, even if it is a stretch and most people really wouldn't read it that way, the courts will give it to you. Bad faith, however, is a different issue. In those claims, the allegation is that the company knew coverage should have been given but didn't anyway. That means that you can sue for more than just the coverage you were promised, but also punitive damages to punish the company for it's wrongdoing. This generally results in multi-million dollar verdicts - the type of thing to strongly discourage companies for improper behavior. See, for example the State Farm case in which, at the close of the evidence, the jury awarded the Campbells $2.6 million in compensatory damages and $145 million in punitive damages. This for it's outrageous treatment of the Campbells when they had a serious accident with only a $25,000 policy. The United States Supreme Court steppid in on that case and indicated that this award was a bit much, even under the circumstances:
An application of the Gore guideposts to the facts of this case, especially in light of the substantial compensatory damages awarded (a portion of which contained a punitive element), likely would justify a punitive damages award at or near the amount of compensatory damages. The punitive award of $145 million, therefore, was neither reasonable nor proportionate to the wrong committed, and it was an irrational and arbitrary deprivation of the property of the defendant. The proper calculation of punitive damages under the principles we have discussed should be resolved, in the first instance, by the Utah courts.
So if my memory serves me correctly, the Campbells got $9 million in punitives plus the $2.5 million in compensatory, to come out with $11.5 million. Given the usual fees for plaintiff's attorneys, they'd probably take home a little over half that, and the lawyers would get the rest.

Yes, I know. But it isn't totally unfair - most plaintiff's attorneys on these cases have a contract with their clients in which the clients pay nothing up front, and the attorneys take 1/3 of any settlement, or about 40% if you have to go through trial and a verdict. Advantages to the injured plaintiff are that they don't have to have the money up front to sue (litigation is freaking expensive), and they get a lawyer who has a vested interest in maximizing the money they receive. Advantages to the lawyer are that while you take a risk in trusting that the case will be as good as the client is telling you, and you could get nothing, in the end you will generally get a lot more in fees than if you'd simply been paid hourly. Right now, I'm a little too low on savings to take anything like this on, but I'd love to do some in the future because the payout would be definitely worth it. The only thing you have to watch is that you don't get on a case where someone is trying to make a false claim, or thinks a sprained wrist and no bad faith should be worth billions of dollars. Refer those straight on to someone else, thanks.

That all said, imagine my puzzlement when I read this morning's article in the Register:
. . . Robert Zieser found Ray Johnson. Robert's wife, Mary, is in a "memory care" lockdown unit for Alzheimer's, but the couple's long-term-care insurance company won't pay the bills. Robert Zieser has tried everything to get the company to pay. Now Johnson is reviewing the case.

"He clearly thought he had purchased protection. He thought he was getting coverage for this exact situation," Johnson said.

Johnson wouldn't think twice about taking on Zieser's case and others like it if Iowa had what's called a "private right of action."

Iowa doesn't.

It's the only state in the country that doesn't allow individual consumers to hire private attorneys and sue under the Consumer Fraud Act. Iowa's attorney general can sue under the act, but not individual Iowans.

So if Iowans think they have been victimized by unfair or deceptive practices, they have to scrape together the money to hire an attorney. That attorney would have to prove what's called "common-law fraud," a difficult case to prove. Also, under common-law fraud, there is no provision to recoup attorney fees, a step almost all states allow.

"How are you going to pay an attorney?" asked Johnson. Iowa law needs to provide a mechanism so a client's attorney "can recover fees from who caused the client harm."

Um, excuse me???? Mr. Zeizer? How long have you been doing this type of work? If you can't figure out how to get paid, you might want to check with Ms. Conlin, she seems to be doing quite nicely.

Snarkiness aside, what he wants is to be able to do the consumer protection class-action type of suit in these cases. You know, the ones where you get something in the mail and it says (I paraphrase), "There's a settlement with x-and-such company and it has been determined that you are one of the people who have been totally screwed by them. If you sign up now, you will get a coupon for $5 off your next purchase. The total award is $2 million to the named plaintiff, a $600 million fund to give the rest of you schmucks your $5 coupons, and another $200 million to the lawyers in attorney's fees."

Yep, just what we need in Iowa.

UPDATE
I realize the connection between class action suits and Consumer Fraud Act private causes of action needs a tad more explaining, so I've put a full-blown legal post up today.

UPDATE UPDATE
This same article is on Professor Nicholas Johnson's blog, From DC 2 Iowa, quoted in support of a universal health care system, given that insurance lobbyists have kept out this cause of action.

While, on the one hand, I'm not opposed to a practical system of universal health, I'd do it for other reasons. To me, the method of suing insurance companies in Iowa is not particularly flawed. For the most part, I think the verdicts are fair and the cause of action sufficient, pretty much because Iowa jurors usually have enough common sense to tell a real claim from an overinflated one, and fraud from normal claims practices, and to ding whichever party brought the unsupported cause.

No, my bigger issue is the premiums. With the reserves requirements on the companies (how much they have to keep in savings/investments to cover the chances of a catastrophe), and the differential in pricing between what medical facilities charge medicare (very cheap) vs. insurance (as much as they can) vs. private individuals (even more than insurance companies), and the legal cost in defending lawsuits when they are frivolous, premiums are astronomical. It is impossible for anyone below a middle class bracket to afford insurance unless they get it through work, and nearly impossible even for those solidly in the middle class. The system is clearly broken and needs to be fixed.

I mean, let's face it - we're going to have to do something. Have you checked out what you'd pay for COBRA or your own insurance these days? For me, it would be higher than my share of rent. When your "just in case" policy is actually higher than your housing costs, there's something seriously wrong. Which is why, for the moment, you can rank me in the category of the uninsured. It's precisely for that reason that health care has become inextricably tied to employment benefits - employers with large groups of employees are the only people with enough bargaining power to actually cut the rates down to where it becomes a vaguely reasonable monthly payment.

I'm not expert enough on economics to know if universal health care is the most effective solution. From what I can tell, it works fine in some countries that have economies geared toward the trade-off of high taxes and large government benefits. I'm not sure if it would work as well here, since most of the rest of our economy seems geared toward privatization and keeping taxes low. But I think it's one option that should be seriously discussed.

ELECTION CANDIDATES PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

I am starting to see an alarming trend in my inbox. Considering the "to" line included several other Iowa bloggers, I know where they got my "name".

What makes candidates think that because I have a blog, and occasionally analyze the bullsh*t that comes along with political elections, I must really, really want to read their election campaign spam mail?

Hint: bloggers are opinionated people. I've been known to get bitchy snarky when annoyed. I might just even be tempted to fisk it online. Given the general half-truths usually involved with campaign mail, that might be considered counterproductive to your campaign efforts.

Monday, July 23, 2007

FYI

Free Online Dating
Apparently because I mention the word "murder" 51 times and "gun" 11 times, etc., in the course of discussing crimlaw cases. Oh, and the word "crap" once. (Aaaaugh! I said crap again!) Wouldn't that mean the nightly news is breaking all kinds of rating laws?

BTW, test your Holy Grail knowledge here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Man Behind the Mask

I Was an eBay Voldemort.

I’ve already seen a few snippy pieces in the press about the eBay sale. That’s fine, people can say whatever they want. There’s no law against scalping books, and as far as moral issues, I don’t feel any guilt.

"Here We Go Again" and Other Random Thoughts

After two weeks of packing Dad's, I'm off to pack the rest of my house for the move. A stop back up at the end of the month to do a couple of hearings and round up Nelle (and possible Kmacis) and then we head down to pack the truck. In August. In Arkansas. I'm soooo looking forward to hauling around boxes and furniture in that heat. (Not). Last night, after I finished up the last bit of legal work I had to do before leaving town, I went out to the car with a very odd feeling. Took me a minute, but I figured out that this was the first time since July 4th that I didn't have something important I needed to be doing right now. After that dawned on me, I realized I could go get dinner - a real dinner - anywhere I wanted, instead of just grabbing something at the store and scarfing it in the car. I went to change, and actually put on makeup. And jewelry. And I went about it with the same feeling I'd had earlier in the week excavating memory boxes in my mom's basement: "Oh, yeah. I remember this." How odd. Mental note: must remember to try to take some time to take care of myself in all this.

Although the move is going to be harsh, I do have some fun break time reading material. Matt is kindly letting me stop by this morning to pick up the script for That Day in September, so I can start memorizing, since I'll have to skip the first read-through. Yep, I'm not even in town yet and I've already started on another show, which is going to be awesome, BTW. Hey, I've been off stage almost a year now. . . and it's just the one. . . I can quit anytime I want to. . . Incidentally, with Matt directing and Nelle also in the cast, it's going to be a rather blogger-heavy show. As always, I'll keep you posted.

When I brought up reading material, I bet you thought I was talking the P-word. Gotcha! Not so much. 1) I did go to the release briefly last night, just to see it, but left around 11. I managed to get out with only one book. Not bad for me. (See the "I can quit anytime I want to" speech above). 2) I am buying the book today. 3) Tomorrow morning, I'll start by rereading book 6 and by tomorrow night sometime, finish book 7. Once I start Deathly Hallows, I will be incapable of putting it down to do mundane tasks like packing - unless I peek at the end first. I don't want to do that, so I've arranged a 12-15 hour window for me to finish the series. I'm not sure if it's because I'm spoiled from generally being able to finish a book in one sitting (I read fast), or that I'm incapable of delayed gratification, but if I really like a book I will not put it down until I know how it turns out. If I have to be in court and I'm in the middle of a novel, I'll either ramp it up to warp speed, or peek at the end. Either way, I will go back and read it again, to savor the details. But at the time, I don't care about the nuances. I just want to know what happened.

Well, I've got to get started - must leave town by 11 for that 8-hour drive.

PS - Oh, and as my blog reading is about as sporadic as my posting, I'd like to express a great big WTF about the Register's silly email that apparently prompted State 29 to pull the plug again. Dammit.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Interesting

All-time box office hits, adjusted for ticket price inflation. The top ten:

1 Gone with the Wind (MGM) $1,329,453,600 / $198,676,459 - 1939
2 Star Wars (Fox) $1,172,026,900 / $460,998,007 - 1977
3 The Sound of Music (Fox) $937,093,200 / $158,671,368 - 1965
4 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Uni.) $933,401,500 / $435,110,554 - 1982
5 The Ten Commandments (Par.) $861,980,000 / $65,500,000 - 1956
6 Titanic (Par.) $844,515,900 / $600,788,188 - 1997
7 Jaws (Uni.) $842,758,600 / $260,000,000 - 1975
8 Doctor Zhivago (MGM) $816,811,300 / $111,721,910 - 1965
9 The Exorcist (WB) $727,541,800 / $232,671,011 - 1973
10 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Dis.) $717,220,000 / $184,925,486 - 1937

Moving, Moving, Moving

The entire month of July is going to be a wash for me.

First, I'm boxing up to make yet another move - the third since I sold the house last year. Fortunately, this one will be far more permanent and will be in the Iowa City vicinity - hence the increased interest in theater-doings in the area. D-day is August 3rd or so, and it's going to be tight.

Second, my father's sold the "family homestead" and we need to get everything out by July 20th, both his stuff and anything we've stored there over the years. My mother was a pack-rat, so we have tons of boxes of old school papers and reciepts to go through as well. There's too much work to be done and too few people to do it - my sister is moving to Waterloo, and both brothers are also moving, so everything is really happening at once. Upshot: I'm pretty much going to be covered in dirt and moving stuff for the next twenty days.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Auditions Reminders

(Alphabetically)

From City Circle:

Well

written by Lisa Kron

directed by Pauline Tyer


September 7-9 & 14-16, 2007
Fri/Sat at 8 pm, Sun at 2:30

Award-winning playwright Lisa Kron was nominated for two Tony Awards for her outrageous comedy Well, the semi-autobiographical story about her mother’s ability to help her neighborhood survive changing times while lacking that ability to heal her own illness. The New York Times calls Well Kron’s “richest achievement…a deeply affecting play.”

Auditions

July 15, 2-4 pm

July 16, 7-9 pm

Community of Christ Church
Southridge Dr, Coralville

____________________________________________


From Dreamwell:

Dreamwell Theatre announces open auditions for "That Day in September" by Artie Van Why, directed by Matthew Falduto.

Auditions will be held Saturday, July 14 and Sunday, July 15 from 2-5pm at the Iowa City Public Library.

Roles are available for a diverse cast of eight actors, ages 18 to 80, men and women. Copies of the script are available at the ICPL.

Based on the author's own experiences in witnessing the collapse of the World Trade Center firsthand, Artie Van Why takes us through one man's life before and after the attacks on Sept. 11.

Originally presented as a one man show, the play has subsequently been performed by multiple actors. "That Day in September" will run for two weekends on September 7, 8, 14, and 15.

Contact 319-541-0140 or email brian@dreamwell.com with any questions.

____________________________________________

and from Iowa City Community Theatre:

Crimes of the Heart

By Beth Henley
Directed by Rich Riggleman (r.riggleman@mchsi.com)
September 14-23, 2007

Auditions will be held at the Iowa City Public Library
Friday, July 27, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Saturday, July 28, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

As their Granddaddy lies dying in the hospital, the Magrath sisters must cope with the latest series of events in their dysfunctional family. The play is a heartwarming and humorous tale of how the family moves through the numerous crises in their lives.

There are roles for 4 women and 2 men ranging in age from late 20’s to early 30’s.
Performances are September 14-16 and 21-23.

Scripts are on reserve at the Iowa City Public Library Reference Desk.

____________________________________________


Meanwhile, Catalyst announces the cast for Sister Rosenweig:

Sisters Rosensweig
by Wendy Wasserstein

Cast
Sarah Goode -- Mary Haaf
Pfeni Rosensweig -- Vicki Krajewski
Gorgeous Teitelbaum -- Chris Hunt
Geoffrey Duncan -- Patrick Ashcraft
Mervyn Kant -- Dennis Aska
Nicholas Pym -- Chris Carpenter
Tess Goode - Alisa Rosenthal
Tom Valiunus -- Queue Jeffers

Sorry I missed those, Jeff, but I wasn't in town and didn't think it would work for special auditions 'cause I've now got to move not only my house but my Dad's as well (and my brother's, technically). However, I should be in town to see the performance - at the Wesley Center August 17th-19th.

As for the others: three plays, all directly conflicting, so we've got to balance it all out. Maybe a joint cast party is in order the weekend of September 14?!? Could be fun.

My blog critic doesn't think we could pull off the joint cast party thing. I'm thinking that's a challenge. We'll see. . .

One Good Quiz Deserves Another



Actually, this one's way cooler. And for grownups.

I Had to Know



Which Disney Princess Are You?

Belle is as lovely as her name implies but her natural unaffected beauty is far more than skin deep. An intelligent and avid reader Belle yearns for faraway places and exciting adventures. She is a loyal, loving daughter and when the beast finally wins her trust she gives him all her kindness and patience and then realizes she has also given him her heart. With her inner strength and outward beauty, Belle is a young woman who can and does make things happen.

PS - there are much better pics of Belle out there, I know. But this is the only one I can find with a book in her hand (did no one think to post anything but ball gowns and roses?) and therefore really the most appropriate.

via Iowa Geek

Some Helpful Tips

If you're trying to avoid jury duty, do try to be a little subtle about it.

For the zoologists among us: Playing with polar bear cubs is apparently highly stressful work leading to burnout after only six months. Apparently, tarantula hiking is a far more relaxed field.

Apparently the traditional, junior-high "I Heart So-And-So" written in marker on school property is now considered the functional equivalent of an assault, but not quite as bad as a sexual assault. No word yet on the felonious level achieved if you actually carve your initials into a tree. Presumably the use of a knife would bump it into the felony-murder category.

Bouncing a check to the cops = not a good idea.

Memo to airline security: when inspecting a suitcase containing bomb parts and a water bottle, don't confiscate the water and leave the bomb. I know water bottles are the thing these days, but there's a limit. Side note to travelers: apparently you can retrieve your confiscated water bottle out of the trash and proceed onto the airplane, if you don't mind stashing it in your pants. Though this probably will get you funny looks if you're female. Hey, a ton of work went into that Fiji water.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Interesting

I just received this and am mulling it over:

9 WORDS WOMEN USE TRANSLATED.

1. Fine
This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up now. Proceed at your own risk. Alternate meaning: You’re on very dangerous ground and are completely clueless, so you need to stop before you get hurt. If she has to explain it to you, she will loose her tightly controlled temper all hell will break loose. Just shut up.

2. Five Minutes
If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

3. Nothing.
This is the calm before the storm. This means “something,” and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with “nothing” usually end in “fine.”

4. Go Ahead.
Many times, this is a dare, not permission. Often said when you’re contemplating emptying out the savings account to buy a motorcycle, obtaining a lap dance at a stip club, or having dinner with your ex. Just say no.

5. Loud Sigh.
This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to #3 for the meaning of nothing.)

6. That's Okay.
This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. “That's okay” means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake. Alternate meaning: You’re clueless, and can’t possibly apologize enough, so give it up. For now.

7. Thanks.
A woman is actually thanking you - do not question it!

8. Whatever.
A woman's way of saying F@!K YOU!

9. Don't worry about it, I got it.
Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself instead. This will later result in a man asking "What's wrong?" For the woman's response refer to #3.

There's a few nuances I'd quibble with but it's an interesting translation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Theater Blogging

Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde
by Moises Kaufman
directed by Dawn Wittke-King
June 22, 23, 29, 30
Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde dramatizes the scandalous sex trials that destroyed Oscar Wilde's flamboyant career as an artist. The play is based on the transcripts of the three trials that resulted in Wilde's conviction, as well as statements made by Wilde before, during, and after the trials. The characters range from Wilde himself to important figures of the time, including Queen Victoria and George Bernard Shaw. This tragic play uses humor to illuminate the consequences of transgressing social mores and explores the universal issues of art, sexuality, and censorship.


I know Dreamwell's been waiting to do this one, and it looks like it will be worth the wait. Check out the articles in the Press-Citizen and the DI, and hit the Dreamwell site for tickets and info.

I also got this tidbit in my inbox from Rage Theatrics:
We are very pleased to announce that not only are rehearsals well under way for our upcoming production of "Your Swash is Unbuckled: Three Pirate Plays by Jeff Goode" at the I owa Fringe Festival in Des Moines, but that you will also have a chance to see these three hilarious fight-filled plays on July 28th at The Englert Theatre. Joining us are the folks from Dreamwell Theatre who will present their own Fringe production, Greg Aldrich's "Typing Lear." More details coming soon!

Dreamwell's current project is "Gross Indeceny: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde." The show opens runs through June 30th at the Unitarian/Universalist Society, 10 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City. Tickets are $12, ($10 for ages 65and older and $8 for students with I.D.) For more details, visit http://www.dreamwell.com/dreamwell/2007/ or call 541-0140.
I can't find Rage's website anymore, but check out the Fringe Fest website for this year for more details, basically because: 1) From what I've seen, the Rage show should be a blast; 2) Greg Aldrich's script last year was hilarious, and I hear this one could even be better; 3) Fringe Fest is just a good time, period.

Finally, it looks as though auditions for fall shows are starting soon. ICCT has this announcement up:
Crimes of the Heart
By Beth Henley
Directed by Rich Riggleman (r.riggleman@mchsi.com)

Auditions will be held at the Iowa City Public Library
Friday, July 27, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Saturday, July 28, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

As their Granddaddy lies dying in the hospital, the Magrath sisters must cope with the latest series of events in their dysfunctional family. The play is a heartwarming and humorous tale of how the family moves through the numerous crises in their lives.

There are roles for 4 women and 2 men ranging in age from late 20’s to early 30’s.
Performances are September 14-16 and 21-23. Scripts are on reserve at the Iowa City Public Library Reference Desk


City Circle's still working on the rights to The Well, but says they'll have auditions sometime after the 4th:

Well

(rights pending)
written by Lisa Kron
directed by Pauline Tyer

September 7-9 & 14-16, 2007
Fri/Sat at 8 pm, Sun at 2:30

Venue TBA

Award-winning playwright Lisa Kron was nominated for two Tony Awards for her outrageous comedy Well, the semi-autobiographical story about her mother’s ability to help her neighborhood survive changing times while lacking that ability to heal her own illness. The New York Times calls Well Kron’s “richest achievement…a deeply affecting play.”

Auditions will be sometime after July 4th. Check back for details!


I've also heard that Catalyst Acting Company is being revived and will be staging Sisters Rosensweig by Wendy Wasserstein at the Wesley Center to run August 17th-19th. I've got no links for that one yet.

That's everything I know so far. . . . looks like lots to choose from, though. And I should be back in town just in time to do something.

UPDATE

Matt pointed out that Dreamwell's auditioning for That Day in September: "I'll add one more to your list. Dreamwell is doing That Day in September by Artie Van Why the two weekends surrounding September 11. It's a powerful story about one person's experience on that day. I'm directing this one and I'd love to see you at auditions. Auditions are tentatively scheduled for July 14 and 15." From the Dreamwell site:

That Day in September
by Artie Van Why
directed by Matthew Falduto
September
From The Los Angeles Times: "Artie Van Why's recounting of his experience . . . is admirable in its dedication to chronicling the terrorist attacks firsthand. [His] recollections of the attacks and their aftermath are harrowing, marked by an eyewitness perspective that has the sober authenticity of diary entries. This recounting of what one American encountered on Sept. 11... commands unalloyed admiration for its dedication to chronicling the terrorist attacks from firsthand experience."


NOW I think I've hit everything(?)

UPDATE UPDATE

Jeff has kindly provided me the new link to Catalyst. The audition info from the site:

AUDITIONS FOR SISTERS ROSENSWEIG JUST ANNOUNCED!!!

Auditions for Sisters Rosensweig by Wendy Wasserstein are now scheduled!
Directed by Jeff Shields and assistant directed by Jason Millsap

Auditions will be Monday, July 2nd at 6:30PM at the Iowa City Public Library in meeting room A

Alternate times can be arranged with the director by calling 319-594-6411 or
e-mail at admin@catalystacting.org.

Roles available are:

3 Women (40s-early 60s)
3 Men (40s-early 60s)
1 college age looking male (17ish-22)
1 college age looking female (17ish-22)
Production dates will be August 17-19th at the Wesley Center in Downtown
Iowa City

Synopsis:


Winner of the 1993 Outer Critics Circle award for Best Broadway
Play. Sara Goode, an enormously successful American woman working as
the British representative of a major Hong Kong bank, is about to celebrate
her fifty-fourth birthday, and she isn't exactly too happy about it. Firmly
ensconced in her lovely London home, she leads a quiet, almost cold,
expatriate life with her daughter, Tess. For the birthday celebration, her two
sisters, Gorgeous Teitelbaum (Dr. Gorgeous, loving housewife and mother,
of Newton, MA, who has her own call-in radio advice program and hopes to
make the leap to TV), and Pfeni Rosensweig (peripatetic third-world travel
writer, alas, unmarried), are expected to arrive at any moment. As if this
weren't causing Sara enough stress, Mervyn Kant shows up at her door, and
she doesn't even know the man, who, at first sight, is instantly smitten with
her. Mervyn is a furrier, and a friend of Geoffrey's, the on-again, off-again, bi-
sexual lover of Pfeni. After her sisters arrive for the celebration, Tess, and her
boyfriend, Tom, turn up and advise her that they're planning on rushing off to
his ancestral Lithuania for reasons of political protest. Next to arrive is
Nicholas, the stuffy Brit whom Sara has been "seeing" although he seems
somewhat anti-Semitic. All of this adds up to a rather interesting evening,
which leads to unexpected romance, suspected partings, recriminations,
reconciliations and, above all, newfound love and acceptance. (taken from
www.dramatists.com)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Rabbit of Caerbannog . . .




Hat tip to Leo

Even Cuter

The littlest Falduto. Congratulations!!!!

Too Cute



My favorite comment:
Authentic new West Coast sound: Tessa, the reigning princess of Asian-Bavarian punk fusion!

Maintenance

FYI - I've had a nasty cold, so I'm home in bed (well, on the couch) today and I thought I'd continue the tedious project of hand copying posts from the old blog to this one. As far as I can tell, there's no way to import/export them in droves (dammit) but I've been working off and on to copy/paste each by hand, with the idea of eventually having one unified blog. So if you see a bunch of new posts on the aggregator but get a distinct feeling of deja vu while you're reading them . . . yes, you've probably seen them before. August of 2005, to start with, and we'll see how far back from there I get.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Saturday Stuff

I'm blogging while watching history stuff (Roman building of Hadrian's wall) and Don's spoiling me by making pancakes and bacon for brunch. And I'm reading The Onion articles out to him. Check these out for a giggle:


Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time, Place Shakespeare Intended

Al Qaeda Also Fed Up With Ground Zero Construction Delays

Once this is done, we've got to start packing. Again. Oh, well, at least I know I'll stay put for at least a year this time.

Oh, and Nelle's got a blog. Check it out. Yes, I'll eventually update the sidebar, which is horribly out of date.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Blowing off Steam

Last summer: I was looking through my purse, and realized I had "lost" my bank card. I knew it was in the house somewhere. I remembered using it when I was writing out my bills. I tore the place apart, but I just couldn't find it. (It was under the computer keyboard.) This had happened a few times, and I was getting tired of it. So I decided to create a backup. When I called to order a new card, I told Iowa State Bank not to cancel the old card. Instead, I asked them to take the limit down to $1. After a few weeks, the new card came and, of course, I found the old one. I then called Iowa State and told them to raise the limit back up on the old one, because I'd found it. There was a bit of resistance by customer service, but I explained that I was putting it in a safe deposit box to use if I ever lost the new one. Smart, right? They acquiesced and life went on.

Last Friday: I'm making a deposit on the Coralville strip at UI Credit Union, and the envelope won't slide in right. I futz around with it too long, and the machine eats my card. Dammit. Saturday morning I go to the Credit Union. They say Iowa State Bank needs contact them with a special form in order to have the card returned. Otherwise it will be destroyed. So I go to Iowa State, go up to Teller Guy and explain the situation: I'm leaving town for Arkansas, and I need to have the card mailed to my work address in Iowa City. I'll use my backup card in the interim. There's a bit of paperwork involved, but I'm told it should be no problem. I can use the old card, and the new one will be mailed to me and waiting when I get back. Teller Guy gives me the name and extension for the Girl Upstairs who is to re-acquire my card, in case I need to contact her. I leave town a few hours later.

Monday: I use my backup card online to buy a song or two from Itunes. It works fine.

Last night: I attempt to use my backup card at a store, and it comes up cancelled. Fortunately, Don foots the bill for me.

This morning: I call Iowa State Bank. Customer Service Guy answers. I explain there's been a mix-up and I need my card reactivated. He puts me on hold for several minutes. When he returns, he tells me they have a policy against having two cards for the same person for the same account. I try to keep my temper - it's not his fault - and explain that there's a very good reason why I have a backup card. In fact, I have a backup card for an occasion JUST LIKE THIS ONE. I go over the conversation I had with Teller Guy on Saturday. I explain to Customer Service Guy that I'm in Arkansas, as I told Teller Guy last Saturday that I would be, and I'd really like to get back next weekend so I can go to a hearing I have scheduled Tuesday. I need a card NOW. There's another interminable hold as he confers with the powers "upstairs." Then he tells me that the cancellation is not reversible, but he's got a plan. I can just go to the bank that ate my second card and get it from them. He got special permission and everything. I take a very deep breath and explain to Customer Service Guy that I'd love to do that, but as I told them last Saturday, IT'S IN IOWA. I'm in ARKANSAS. How I'm supposed to achieve this feat of teleportation is not exactly clear to me. Customer Service Guy has taken my number and will get back to me.

Point #1: I made it clear on Saturday I was leaving town and would use the old card. What genius in decided it would be a hoot to cancel the card I TOLD THEM I was using and strand me eight hours away? I'd really love to know.

Point #2: If a card has been stolen or lost somewhere other than the user's bedroom, I can see why an irreversible cancel could be advisable. But you're going to cancel the card without any notice to me based on a policy decision, and make that irreversible? Excuse me?

Point #3: Is the air "upstairs" a little thin these days?

I'm going a tad postal at the moment. I'm taking it out here instead of on poor Customer Service Guy, who just happened to answer my call.

********************

UPDATE:
Customer Service Guy calls back to tell me that they are working on making a new ATM and fed-exing it to me. He doesn't know if it will be able to be a check card or just a debit card.
(Minor issue, that, as debit cards don't always work so good out of state. I've got one with the Credit Union on a backup savings account - which unfortunately only has about $50 at the moment or I'd be in less of a panic. About 50% of the time I use that card down here, the machine can't seem to find my account and/or money.)
He goes on to explain the reason he's not sure what kind of card they can get: because only two people can make them in-house and neither are present at the moment. He then says he'll call me back again. I then suggest that he contact the person "upstairs" who was responsible for retrieving my new card from the Credit Union, giving him the name. If Upstairs Girl has gotten it back, they could simply fed ex that one to me instead of dinking around with making a whole new card. Customer Service Guy thinks that's a fine idea. PS: I'm told that when the current crisis is over, they'll order me a second check card for a backup. Customer Service Guy has gotten me an exception to policy on that one. No word yet as to whether the Upstairs People expect me to pay for it, or the fedexing. Or, for that matter, whether some other genius will try to cancel the backup in the future if the same thing happens all over again.

Situation pending.


********************

UPDATE UPDATE


Well, Customer Service Guy must've noted the tension in my voice, because he drove over to the Credit Union and got my card from them personally. He is Fed-Exing it to me; I should get it tomorrow. I'll have to call to confirm I got it, but then it should be sufficiently functional to get me back to Iowa. He's ordered my new backup card, which should be at the office within 10 days. Then I'll just need to adjust the PIN to coincide with my current card, and I should be back to square one. *Sigh*

I'll keep an eye on the account via internet and see if I'm charged for any of this. And, of course, if I ever have to use a backup again I'll be sure a note is attached to the account to flag it, hopefully protecting me from any moron who might find it funny to strand me without funds.

Note to Iowa State Bank: I think customer service guy should be promoted "upstairs" to replace whoever screwed this up in the first place. (I'd guess that it was Upstairs Girl, as she's the person who was to retrieve my card and so the most likely to see that I was using the backup. But I can't be sure.) He obviously has enough brains to recognize a good solution for a difficult problem. And I appreciate the field trip.


********************

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE

So the Fed-Ex guy brings the card at 10:00 am. And was back in the truck before I could get to the door. So much for "it's going to require a signature." It would have been loads of fun if I hadn't heard the door and somebody off the street decided to appropriate the envelope. Regardless, I called Customer Service Guy and told him I got it. He said they'd make sure it was activated, and it would take about an hour before it would work properly.

To give it time, I waited about seven hours. At 5:00 I tried to use the card on a minor purchase at a nearby convenience store - I had just enough cash to cover if it didn't work. Sure enough: sale declined.

I'll try it at an ATM tomorrow, then call the bank.

The saga continues.


********************

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE

8:30 - My online statement indicates that I've been charged for the new backup card. I'm heading out to the ATM now to see whether or not the card I've got is worth more than the plastic it is printed on. This is going to get interesting.

9:00 - No dice. $20 is "over my daily limit." I called Customer Service Guy - he's not available. I then called the general number and got someone else. As soon as I mentioned Arkansas, he knew who I was. Apparently I'm something of a topic of conversation. I explained that I have two problems: 1) I'm down to $1 and my card doesn't work. 2) I don't think I should be charged for replacing a card that I didn't ask to be deactivated. So Customer Service Guy #2 (CSG2) is going to track down where the snafu is and call me back. He may get CSG1 involved, if he's available later. He's also going to speak to their supervisor on Tuesday (apparently she's out today) about reversing the charges on the new card. Meanwhile, I've got $1. If my UICCU card works (as I said, ATM's are hit and miss down here) I've got access to another $50 to get food for the weekend. Lucky I have a separate bank for an emergency fund. But even if I let Don pay for everything, I'd still not have enough to get back - it takes about $35 to fill the tank once these days, and the trip requires two fill-ups. I'm not a happy camper.

9:45 - I'm told it works now. I'll make another test and keep you posted.


********************

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE - 5/29

I finally got the card to work, and made it back to Iowa today. I'm going to follow up on reversing the charges on the new card once I receive it. So I may be almost back to square one.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Odd Holiday Alert

I was aware Towel Day is this Friday, May 25th. But I wasn't expecting this from Anywhere But Here this morning:
May I be the first to wish you all a very happy Eliza Doolittle Day?

So what do I wear now?

Do It Yourselfers:

As reported in the Register, the Iowa Supreme Court has finally posted online forms if you want to do your own divorce, and all you have to fight about is who gets the couch or tv (in other words, there are no kids involved). The forms are available online here.

This has been needed for a long time. There are so many situations in which a couple splits after two, five or ten years with no kids, no expensive retirement accounts or real assets, and a prearranged agreement about who gets what stuff, and yet find themselves facing thousands of dollars in attorney bills just because they don't know what forms to file or how to file them.

Yes, having a lawyer will ensure that you know exactly what you're entitled to - how much of your partner's retirement account could be considered joint property, etc. But in many of these cases, the money spent getting two attorneys (one lawyer can't represent two sides) won't offset that last little bit of funds that the two of you might have forgotten to fight over. On the other hand, it's not always that simple. If you think they've got a secret swiss bank account, or if they've never paid taxes during your marriage so the IRS might be considering you both a 'person of interest'. . . you may want to hire an expert to protect yourself. I'm just saying.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Just 'Cause I'm Like That

I've been asked to bump the spider pictures for something less disgusting. How's this?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

There Is a Limit

I'm generally pretty flexible. I think I could move just about anywhere. But I saw these on Gradual Dazzle, and I can tell you now that I'm NOT moving wherever this is:



I can't deal. There isn't a shoe big enough in the world. It would require napalm.

Linkage

The IC Press Citizen has a "What I'm Into" today featuring the awesome Nancy Mayfield.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Vindicated

You may recall this excerpt from my former blog:
Computer Analysis
This article in Wired News indicates that Dartmouth College has a developed a statistical analysis algorithm that allows a computer to tell the identity of a work's true artist. I hope it works better than the Gender Genie, another test based on a scientific algorithm, which when fed excerpts from my blog back in September, decided I was male:

Female Score: 2363
Male Score: 4600

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

Am I right? The author of this passage is actually:

male

female


Hmm - twice as male as I am female?? I politely correct the genie, and receive this comment:

That is one butch chick.

According to Koppel and Argamon, the algorithm should predict the gender of the author approximately 80% of the time.

Well, gender genie still believes I'm a boy. I've tried three written posts (not just link roundups or quizzes) of the requisite length (500+ words) that are recent enough to be still on the front page, and all of them tested decidedly male.

But . . .

I ran across the He/She Ratio. It's supposed to assess a site's preference by simply counting the number of times it uses the word "he" as versus "she". The results?

Usage of "he" vs "she" on sidenotesanddetours.blogspot.com (25%/ 75%)
Ha! Take that, "Gender Genie." If the long hair, silky skirts, and strappy heels didn't tip you off, the He/She Ratio proves it: I's a girl.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

They're Gonna Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse

Reading Gizmodo, I ran across this article regarding a sub-issue in the recent net radio fee hikes:
Amidst the uproar over the egregious royalty rate hike for internet radio stations, engineered by RIAA-spinoff SoundExchange and handed down by the Copyright Royalty Board, we missed a detail we should have noticed. Some commenters suggested simply listening to music under non-restrictive licenses. But apparently that won't work.
"The recent U.S. Copyright Office ruling regarding webcasting designated SoundExchange to collect and distribute to all nonmembers as well as its members. The Librarian of Congress issued his decision with rates and terms to govern the compulsory license for webcasters (Internet-only radio) and simulcastors (retransmissions)."
(The latter is a direct quote from the SoundExchange FAQ).

In other words, it appears that even if artists wish to opt out and offer their works under non-restrictive licenses, SoundExchange collects for them anyway against their wishes. And how would these artists go about getting these royalties? Why, by becoming a member of SoundExchange, of course. For only a "small administrative fee" sufficient to cover the costs of collection. Otherwise, SoundExchange gets to keep the cash.

Daily Kos has lots more.

What Shall We Do With the Drunken Pirate?

This from The Smoking Gun:
Stacy Snyder charges that Millersville University brass accused her of promoting underage drinking after they discovered her MySpace photo, which was captioned "Drunken Pirate." . . . A university official told her that the photo was "unprofessional" and could have offended her students if they accessed her MySpace page. At the time the "Drunken Pirate" photo was taken, Snyder was of legal age to drink, though her lawsuit notes that the photo "does not show the cup's contents." . . . Despite good grades and solid performance evaluations, Snyder claims that school officials improperly denied her a bachelor of science in education degree and a teaching certificate.
The offending photo (also from TSG website):

TSG also has an excerpt from the lawsuit, which notes that the school had no policy about posting pictures to personal websites at the time the cause of action accrued. Unfortunately, it cuts off before fully describing the school's code of conduct and corresponding sanctions for infractions, so I can't do an adequate analysis of the suit. But going simply on the face of it, this seems rather disproportionately harsh to me. So I'm throwing it open for comments: is this pretty standard in the teaching field, or is the University going overboard?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Things I've Discovered on the Internet Lately

If you ever feel the need for a poop transplant, call on Dr. Aas. If you're wondering if you're a candidate, you may want to familiarize yourself with the Bristol Stool Scale.

If you find yourself being arrested, there are a few common-sense things you want to keep in mind, like:
  1. Be polite;
  2. Don't make any statements without consulting counsel;
  3. Ask for a lawyer right away;
  4. Do not whip out your boob and spray the arresting officer with breast milk.


Thinning hair? Haemorrhoids? Cancer? Snakebite? Drink urine! (Can't you just hear the infomercial?)

Those motorcycle/bathtub collisions can be nasty.

A modern version of Swift's "A Modest Proposal"?

Even as we speak, Florida courts are grappling with the controversial "Irritable Bowel Syndrome Defense."

Vacationing on Puketutu Island? Might want to rethink that.

No matter how your cow has had to drink, don't call it a cab.

PT Barnum was right: Thousands of people have been 'fleeced' into buying neatly coiffured lambs they thought were poodles. . . . the scam was only spotted after a leading Japanese actress said her 'poodle' didn't bark and refused to eat dog food.
(PS: Yes, I'm aware Barnum didn't actually say that. But if I'd said Joseph Bessimer would you really have known what I was talking about?)


UPDATE: The sheep/dog thing is a hoax, according to ULRP. My bad.

Theater Blogging

Lots of good shows have gone by during my hiatus, and I'm sorry not to have mentioned them. But I noticed today's DI has a feature article up on To Kill a Mockingbird, and it looks like it's going to be a great show, and possibly one of the last times to see the ever-awesome Madonna Smith onstage before she heads out of state.


Written by Harper Lee
and Christopher Sergel

Directed by Rachael
Lindhart

April 27,28, May 4,5 at 8:00 pm
April 29, May 6 at 2:30 pm


For our final show of the season, ICCT is presenting the stage adaptation of the widely-read and beloved book by Harper Lee. It portrays childhood innocence as told from a mature, adult perspective, and a progressive, enlightened 1960s message about racial prejudice, violence, moral tolerance and dignified courage.

All Performances will be at Exhibition Hall on the Johnson County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Tickets will go on sale three weeks prior to performance.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wednesday Quiz

Orpheus
You are an artist, an aesthete, a sensitive, and someone who has never really let go of that childlike innocence. To you, all of life has a sense of wonder in it, and the story of Orpheus was written about someone just like you.

When the Argo passed the island of the Sirens, Orpheus played a song more beautiful than the Sirens to prevent the crew from becoming enticed. When his wife died, he ventured into the underworld to charm Hades but, in his naivete, he looked back becoming trapped there.

You can capture your unique world view and relate it to others with the skill of a master storyteller. Your sensitivity and creativity make you a treasure to the human race, but your thin-skinned nature and innocence can cause you a lot of disenchantment and pain. What's doubly unfortunate is that, if you try to lose those traits, you never will, and everyone will be able to tell that you're putting up an artificial shell to prevent yourself from being hurt.

Famous people like you: Hemingway, Shakespeare, Mr. Rogers, Melville, Nick Tosches
Stay clear of: Icarus, Hermes, Atlas



My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
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You scored higher than 99% on Extroversion


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You scored higher than 99% on Intuition
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You scored higher than 99% on Emotiveness
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You scored higher than 99% on Perceptiveness
Link: The Greek Mythology Personality Test written by Aleph_Nine on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test